Yeah, yeah, social media is still trendy and we all wish people would stop singling it out as anything other than another tool in the customer relations and marketing toolbox. But utilizing this tool effectively is still crucial to quality customer interaction. And what better way for a business to make a royal, social media mess of things? By not having a social media policy.
I would like to make the argument that any company, however small or large, in whichever type of business it may be, needs to have a social media policy of some kind.
Now certainly a one-man business or small shop shouldn’t waste their time writing an elaborate 20 page document covering every single aspect of every possible social media platform available. But they do need to evaluate how their employees are going to conduct themselves across various platforms as representatives of the company. Even if that means a simple paragraph in the employee handbook.
What is important to understand is the scope and penetration of company related social media interaction. For example, as the marketing director, I try to weigh each item I post anywhere against how I might be perceived as a spokesman for Big Bang. Even on accounts that have no direct tie to the company, I still consciously conduct myself as if the person reading what I typed knew I worked for Big Bang and what it was all about. This is largely because I spread Big Bang information all over on a daily basis.
But what about the person who isn’t responsible for external media, like one of our software developers. Well Big Bang’s short little two-page social media policy breaks it down two ways. First, if the individual does not have their work email, work url or any other work related items tied to any of their social media accounts, then they may conduct themselves however they wish. If however, they do have information available for public consumption that indicates their affiliation with Big Bang, they need to conduct themselves accordingly.
The extent to which a company manages and enforces social media policy is typically based on the scale of effect that an individual's personal social media presence can have on the company's brand and image. For Big Bang, we simply want represent ourselves ethically and with common sense, to offer honest and transparent insight into our brand and protect its integrity. And if we make a mistake, to be honest about that as well.
For us, and what I think is the most effective way to institute social media policy, is to treat employees with the same level of respect and trust that you have in them to work hard for you every day. They already possess the level of pride in their company necessary to, with the subtle guide of a well-written social media policy, conduct themselves as brand ambassadors.
And if they don’t, then that is probably indicative of larger issues than errant tweets.
Based on the title, you might be preparing yourself for a rant. Fear not, this is a (semi) professionally-minded small business blog, so you shan’t be forced to read an emotionally charged vociferation.
But I will provide my observations on the subject and ask the question in print that so many of us think regularly – Do companies still actually fall for people selling themselves as a social media [insert something silly here]?
My observation of the rise in popularity and importance of social media is that, in very real ways, it has changed the way conversations are happening with customers. Not so long ago, brands were able to largely dictate sentiment with one-way communication to their customers. Now customers not only have an immediate response vehicle in the form of social media, but when en masse, have the opportunity to dictate communication to the brand. Cases in point - the latest reversals in planned policy from Netflix, Verizon, and Bank of America.
But this new change in conversation dynamic is only the latest development in constantly evolving customer relations. As such, companies should be aware of how best to communicate with their customer base across ALL MEDIA to ensure satisfaction. The best conversations still involve the right content to the right people at the right time.
What this change in conversation dynamic does not require however, is a social media “wizard” to set up your Google+, Twitter and Facebook accounts for you. As you well know, all social media platforms are not equal and social media is most certainly not for every company. But you won’t hear that from social media services peddlers. They will insist that a Facebook page will be great for gaining customers to your International Aeronautical LED engineering company. And for your custom cabinetry business? Why you will be sure to find a vibrant community of antique Brazilian Tulipwood veneer and dowel rod clients on Twitter.
My observation is that just like any one of the thousands of tactics in your customer relations and marketing strategy, social media should be evaluated for potential benefit for your organization, and if viable, should be carefully incorporated into your overall plan. Large companies with substantial marketing teams will very likely have one or more people dedicated solely to monitoring and contributing to the customer interaction across many social media channels. Many small businesses may not have any need for social media, or do not have the time to effectively engage their customers, nor the money to pay someone to do it for them.
Either way, customer interaction continues to evolve and it is up to the individual organization to determine how and where they will best communicate with their customers. If Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn make an effective communication tool, then they can certainly be utilized and can facilitate terrific engagement.
But do you really need a self-proclaimed "guru" who knows nothing of your business to tell you how to talk to your customers?
At the beginning of each year, I prepare a list of the top ten marketing goals I would like to achieve in the year ahead. I do this to help me plan out my marketing strategy, aid in budget preparation, but largely to set marketing expectations for myself a little higher than the previous year.
Most of the items required new research, learning new skills, or careful incorporation into my existing marketing strategy. But some goals I desired to have in place by this time, but for a variety of reasons was not able to complete.
My Top Ten Marketing Goals for 2011
Continue to Develop Solid Brand Position - SUCCESS
-Speak and write passionately about product to attract ideal customer
Start Small Business Blog - SUCCESS
-You are reading it
Create Social Media Policy - SUCCESS
-Develop and document strategies and tactics for connecting and
networking with ideal customer
Build and Combine Customer Lists - SUCCESS
-Take current customer list, clean, and combine with new lead list
Increase Unique Web visits to 15k/month - FAILURE
-Fine Tune SEO and analytics – finesse content and design
Do a Professional Product Video - SUCCESS
-Utilize Angelvision for product video
Mobile Marketing - SUCCESS
-Develop mobile site and begin opt-in mobile program for updates
Referral System - FAILURE
-Focus on centers of influence and trusted advisers to promote brand and product. Develop referral promotion for loyal, enthusiastic existing customers.
Focus on ideal Customers - SUCCESS
-Identify ideal customer and focus 90% of assets and energy on closing
opportunities to them.
Define and clarify Sales Cycle - SUCCESS
-Clearly define conversion parameters and lead scoring to qualify and track each lead through cycle and increase opportunity close percentage.
*Failed - Increase Unique Web Visits to 15+/month
Big Bang and the UIU have been averaging between 11 and 12k unique visitors per month for about six months and I really wanted increase that by a few thousand. The primary reason that this goal was not completed is that I really stopped focusing on clicks and completely revamped my entire adwords and landing page strategy to really focus on interaction. Another factor was the complete rebuild of our websites including new developer and CMS, for which we have been re-establishing our organic search ranking slowly. The goal of increased traffic will definitely be making it to the 2012 list in an upcoming post, but I think I might up the ante just a bit to 17k+/month now that the foundation is set.
*Failed - Referral System
This goal has been on the last two year’s goals in a row, and I think that it will not be making it to the 2012 list for a few very good reasons. But since I’m already getting long-typed on this post, I will save the topic of Referral System and why I think it will never work for us for a dedicated post in two weeks.
What goals did you miss this year and why?
About Big Bang Blog
There are many reasons to write a small business blog, we wanted to bring you at least a few reasons to read one. The Big Bang Blog covers the ins and outs of running a small software business, as well as a variety of small business marketing and media topics. Please leave us your comments and questions.
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|About Adam Murphy -
Adam is the President and Owner of Big Bang LLC and espouses a pretty progressive small business philosophy based primarily around hiring the right people and getting the hell out of their way.
|About Nate Bauer -
Nate is the Marketing Director for Big Bang LLC and pretty much spends his days tip-toeing on the pinnacle of how to most effectively implement strategy given the wide open cookie jar of small business marketing possibilities.
|About Kelley Burian - @kelleyburian
Kelley is the Sales Director for Big Bang LLC. Responsible for everything from GSA contracts, resellers and international customers, she has her hands full doing whatever she can to make sure our valued clients are thrilled with our fantastic products.